Schradieck stretch

January 25, 2010 at 06:34 PM ·

HI folks I have a few questions regarding a particular schradieck exercise that is giving me nightmares and really discouraging me....

I'm wondering if it's normal to have such trouble with this particular stretch : using the 2nd and 3rd fingers to play C and D#  on the A string

it's pretty difficult for me i can do it, but i have to squeeze fairly hard with my left thumb and hand...

but that's not what's causing me despair!

there's a particular line that goes C E D# E on the A string

this is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for me to playing the the C with the middle finger, i can reach the E no problem with the pink, but then to bring my 3rd finger to play a D#, is IMPOSSIBLE for me without lifting my middle finger....

wathcing this girl do it relatively effortlessly kills me!

i literally have to use my right hand to grab the 3rd finger and place it next to the pinky to be able to pull it off...

i tried messing around with different thumb positions, but it's just not happening... i've placed the scroll against the wall as well..

oddly enough, i can play this sequence C D# E D# C..... i have trouble with it but i can sort of pull it off... however C E D# E is just not happening

is this something everyone goes through or am i just plain unlucky?

btw i've been playing for 2 yrs, but i've been playing guitar for a very long time, and music is also my job... so i have a certain dexterity on the left hand.... it's just that guitarists generally always use the index finger as "base finger" , we never or very rarely use the second finger as base... and if there ever was a large stretch, it ALWAYS starts with the index finger...

it's driving me nuts, andi 'm really close to giving up the instrument!

Replies (23)

January 25, 2010 at 07:58 AM ·

btw i've invented a few exercises to be able to execute stretches...

i've been drilling

1) C  D# C D # ... i can do this one with relative ease but i do have to squeeze my left hand thumb a bit

2) C D E D C  D E D , pretty easy  but still a bit of tension

3) C D Eb D ... pretty easy too but still a bit of tension

4) C Eb D Eb it starts to get challenging i can still do it, but i'm more tense, and my middle finger keeps wanting to go slightly sharp because of stretch between the 2nd and 3rd fingers...

5) C E D E, even  more challenging...

6) C D# E D# C D# E D# , i can barely do this one, and i squeeze hard with my thumb,... and the middle finger also wants to go sharp..


anyway, i'd appreciate any help you guys can give me, maybe i can record a video to show you how i play


January 25, 2010 at 10:31 PM ·


I suspect a lot of people will disagree with me and can prove me wrong by either being able to do it or show clips of people doing it and so forth.

But,  actually I couldn`t gve a rat`s botty about that particular stretch and do think the ability to do it is to some extnet dependnet on each individuals anatomicla peculiarities.   I have very wide hands and relatively long fingers with extremely flexible webbing between the finger sof the left hand form years of playing but that stretch doesn`t work for me all the time.  The wetahe rmakes  alot of difference.   You might be surprised to hear that Casals wa sactually opposed to this kind of stretch.   He believed that technique shoudl be based on the natural abilities and purposes of each individual finger and he taught his studnets that although the outer fingers are designed to stretch the middle two fingers are not and are to be thought of more as an individula unit, each half of which supports the other.

This is not to say the exercise in question isn`t worth practicing.  just make sure that a)  you don`t attach too much importnace to it b)  you don`t under ay circumsatnces clench te instrument and c)  you are basing the hand on the fourth finger and stretching backwards rathe rthan trying to reach forward with the hand setting more in the lower first position setting.



January 26, 2010 at 12:08 AM ·

 I think that Buri' Sensei's  suggestion c is they key to mastering this stretch. 

One of the big flaws in my technique that required correction was first finger dominance. First finger dominance is characterized by a hand position that is rotated outward palm facing the face whenever the first finger alone is down. This is very bad and very inefficient. In order to strengthen the hand you must "cripple" the first finger. The balance must be between the second and third fingers. 

The minor third stretch between 2 and 3 is pretty challenging at two years experience but in time you should be able to stretch a minor third between 1 and 2, 2 and 3 and 3 and 4, separately and at the same time.  All three is rare but two out of three isn't so rare. 

January 26, 2010 at 01:57 AM ·

I'm a not-very-advanced player, myself.  As a comparison, I'm over 60, 5'8", and my hand spans a hair over 9 inches, with a fairly short little finger.  I don't know whether I am a lot bigger or smaller than you, but I had no trouble at all with that exercise. As a matter of fact, I'm liable to play the E too sharp if I don't pay attention.

Could it be the way you hold your violin?  Maybe it's too far out in front.  Take a look at Heifetz in this video

He's not a large man. Notice how naturally his left arm hangs down, and how easy it is  for him to reach notes anywhere on the fingerboard, and how loose and rounded his fingers are, except on the E string.

Then look at how far to the left he holds his instrument.  Following his example is what helped me the most.  Improved my intonation, vibrato, and bow control as well. 



January 26, 2010 at 03:41 AM ·

Thanks for the reply folks. I really appreciate. Unfortunately I haven't had a lesson in over 10 days and won't be able to have a lesson until this weekend so i'm lett to struggle alone.

That said, I think there is still a bit of misundertanding... so i'd just like to clarify again

I am** able to stretch the 2nd and 3rd fingers,  C and D#... yes i do apply a bit of pressure on the left hand... and i did try it with the scroll against the wall... it's just a very unnatural stretch, but i can still do it...

the extremely diffuclt thing is to play the notes in this order C E D# E...

step by step it goes something like this:

1)my middle finger is on the C, and my index is right behind on the B

2) i place my pinky finger on the E no problem so now i've got my index finger on the B the middle finger on the C and the pinky finger on the E. ... if i try to place my ring finger anywhere at the same time as my pinky, it won't go higher than a D... and it sometimes tends to be a few cents flat... ( I have really good relative pitch)

3) so that's problem... now that I'm playing the E natural, with only the ring finger left to play the D#, i absolutely cannot reach the D# with the ring finger!!!!! not unless i take my right hand and grab the finger and push it into position!!!

YET if i were to play the same notes in this order C D# E D# C... I can do it!!! i can barely do it.. but i candefinitely do it


i will try to post a video in a few days when i get back from my little tour.. or maybe i can bring my violin and film myself in the hotel room hahaha

thanks a lot guys,

my main question really is : is this something most violinists go through or am I just an unlucky fool ? watching the video of that little girl play it effortlessly just crushed me!! she does have fairly long fingers too

January 26, 2010 at 03:44 AM ·

oh btw, buri, i'm not sure i understand point c) ... i'll have to post a video with my webcam, and you folks can tell me!



January 26, 2010 at 04:33 AM ·


the meaning of point `c` cocnerns the natural dircetion that the hand stretches. This begins from the fourth finger and allows the lower fingers to reach back while the upper finger eretians a rounded and relaxed state.   The revers eis to begin with the first finger as the focus of hand weight and postion and then ttry stretchign towards your nose with the fourth.  This is wrong and the resu;lting stretch will be considerably less than stertching backwards from the fourth finger.

As a simple experiment place your fourth finger on a `d` in third position on the e string.  Now retain its shape and relative relaxation and stretch back a tenth to first finger b on the a string. You may have to uncurl the first finger backwards a little oin the manne rof guitar players. This is fairly effortless.

Now do the reverse. Place your first finger solidly on b in firts postion on the a string. Now keep that location of hand and stretch for the d with the fourth finger.

That experiment should tell you a lot.



January 26, 2010 at 05:52 AM ·

Hi Dennis,

This is probably difficult for many people. It was for me, until -- tadaa! -- I thought of using block fingering: put the 3 and the 4 down together, and only lift the 4 to play the D#.

To be fair, it was my teacher who thought of it.

Hope this helps,


January 26, 2010 at 07:10 AM ·

Hi Bart!

Unfortunately that does not help, that's one of my main problems (I talked about it in two of my replies) , but thanks nonetheless! so you've never had any problem doing that? having the index and middle fingers down on the notes B and C, and then placing the ring and pinky fingers on C# and E simultaneously? I envy you!


Buri, I see what you mean now... I tried that experiment, and it didn't seem to make a difference either way, my hand was always in hte same position

January 29, 2010 at 09:33 AM ·


I am in quite sympathy with your present dilema.  May I suggest that while your thnking about what is going on.  Why not change your direction of thinking, just say for instance, what is wrong if I do lift the second finger?  The answer is nothing.  The reson being is that the second and third fingers are quite connected.  What I would suggest is Play each note slowly without the bow and look at the individual muscles that are involved while placing the fingers on each note individually.  Then work out the tempo you are looking for.  Then remeber what you did then put this all together. Remeber not to clutch, also here is a hint: make sure that while you are playing this particular exercise that the while you are holding the violin, that you are loose and comfortable enough to be able to allow for the neck of the violin to drop down slightly and then recover.  Also consider lifting the second finger by curling it back near the first finger, since it will be needed there anyway, when you go back to repeat the note sequence. May I also recomend Josephine Trott Studies for Double Stops and Sevcik, Double Trill studies, along with Ruggerio Ricci's Book of the lefet hand.  Good Luck.


February 18, 2010 at 03:54 AM ·

Hi folks,

I finally got around to record myself.... It's very late at night and i'm not warmed. I'm also forced to use a heavy mute so the tone is extremely thin, and the microphone I use isn't the best either... so although my bowing sound isn't amazing, the very poor tone is actually coming from a combination of all that...

So the video begins with some of the things my teacher has asked me to work on ... G major 3 octaves, doing some vibrato...  please excuse the poor shifting and intonation, i'm still working on that...

so for those who've read my original problem (above), something interesting happened.... at first, i was ABSOLUTELY unablke to play C E D# E in first position, but now I am starting to be able to!!! but I have to squeeze extremely tight which is of course very bad, but the fact that i'm starting to able to do that stretch is a bit comforting... u can see it in the video...

February 18, 2010 at 03:56 AM ·

btw watching myself play violin on video makes me cringe.... i'm aware of how dreadful i sound.... i'm close to giving up!!! :-(

February 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM ·

I loved watching your video! 

There's this conundrum involving the co-dependence of the third and fourth fingers.  For that particular exercise, you will find that the muscles will relax for you better when you envision the third and fourth finger landing as a unit (one singular motion), then lift the fourth finger and set it back down.  Practice the individual motions like lightning, but with lots of time between them so you can focus on keeping your hand relaxed and give specific commands to it as to what you want it to do.

The rest involves time and persistence.  Perhaps you haven't come across a wall like this before, but let me assure you that there are many, and they are all conquerable with enough mental effort and repetition.  The secret lies in ease of motion (rid yourself of tension)  and specific instructions from the brain to the movement being executed.  May your metronome be your guide, and this too will come to pass.

And besides, that girl misses most of her notes.

February 18, 2010 at 01:12 PM ·

 the bad sound is from digital distortion ,play farther from the mic or use a lower bit/sample size.

Good strings for recording are Tonica Lights or Med or Helicores with a tonica  " A" string.use soft rosins  like Pirastro  Olive or Obligato.Old /harder rosin needs to be removed from hairs first before applying new softer  rosins.Generally Bow farther from the bridge, closer to the finger board. If need be, get your violin set up so it sounds good under the ear.Basically, anything designed for projection and volume isn't good in the studio.

Keep you fingers lower to the fingerboard.When the fingers come up to high ,the first fingers first knuckle buckles back causing to much hand movement .Keeping  your fingers low will improve your intonation and speed. Make sure your first finger keeps its twist -not pointing towards the G string.

When learning difficult techniques practice a little each day , or every second  day.Force learning techniques isn't A good ideal.

February 18, 2010 at 05:37 PM ·

Dennis, is this awkward stretch really important to you?  I suspect it’s not, mainly part of your daily exercises!!  Two things come to my mind:  –  this awkward stretch (in particular the finger pattern you’re trying to master) hardly occurs in our violin repertoire and it will eat away at your confidence/enthusiasm too!!  I would advise you to leave this stretch and build your confidence around the finger exercises you can do easily (obviously increasing the difficulty).  Come back to the stretch later on when your hand is in better shape, not only will it seem easier, you’ll have the confidence to relax and overcome the problem. 


Having watched your video and seeing you physically placing your finger in place with the other hand worries me to be honest - not only does this defeat what’s meant to be achieved but programs your brain to ‘hate’ that problem with all kinds of manifestations rearing their ugly head (physical tension, lack of confidence etc etc) it also stops the flow of music (a habit you can’t afford in performances).


Remember, it’s only one exercise out of thousands so missing out on this will not impede your developing technique. Another way of looking at it would be this; would you practise the most difficult of Paganini Caprices 1st or would you be better off tackling one of the easier ones instead?


Only my opinion of course and good luck!!




February 18, 2010 at 11:55 PM ·

Kreutzer #9 is a good place to go.

February 19, 2010 at 01:24 AM ·

One thing my instructor told me when doing exercises involving the 4th finger is to rotate my left hand clockwise a bit, while lifting the first finger up, being sure to keep my hand anchored on the side of the fingerboard. I have VERY small hands, and short 4th fingers. My left 4th finger even suffered some trauma when I was 4 - getting it caught in a door & nearly taking the tip off - so I've always struggled with 4th finger from the beginning.

My instructor also has small hands and the above trick works for her quite well. I find that if I use it to find the placement of the 4, and work the 2 and 3 around it, it is not nearly as difficult.

February 19, 2010 at 02:48 AM ·

Hey i do these exercises every day!! it's very simple actually.

Your mistake is to grip with your thumb. if you let your thumb loose and let it move up the next of the violin without actually moving your whole hand you'll find it much easy to create a larger gap between the c and dsharp.

Try it! Good luck and don't give up :)

February 20, 2010 at 05:12 PM ·

Schradiek is my Hero!!!!!

February 23, 2010 at 07:07 AM ·

Hi folks!

Thanks for all your replies.... The part where I use my right hand to palce my left hand was just to show you hard it was for me to be able even to do it!

Relaxation is key of course , but it is easier said than done!!!

The issue for me in all this is not the fact that I cant do it... It's not knowing whether I'll ever be able to do it that bothers me so much... I see a little child doing it very easily.... and that's the reason why I posted here to see if anyone else has or has had problems with that particular sequence of notes...

If I have to make an analogy, let's say I had to play an interval of a 12th from C to G on a piano... my thumb and pinky can only go up to a 9th (C to D) so obviously, it is physically impossible for me to play the 12th... and that's fine too because most people can't need abnormally long fingers to pull that off!

but on the violin, it seems everyone can do that sequence of notes just NOT me!!! that's what 's frustrating.. it's the fact that though it is slightly uncommon, it s still something that most violinists can do.... just not freakin me!! argh!!

my teacher is very encouraging and knows how I feel, he tries to make me feel better and tells me not to worry about it... but it's bothering me a lot hahaha

I'm very patient and as a professional musician obviously know the value of hard work and discipline...

but in the back of my mind , there are always those arguments that adults can never learn to play the violin at a relatively high level (ie playing something like the bach chaconne in tune and at a decent level)....

based on my research, there's only one person who successfully learned to play the violin at a high level as an adult (I read about that norwegian fellow here, but I forget his name) ... Anyway, maybe I'm wrong, but no else has ever proved this theory wrong.... so I'd just be wasting my time and money if I just keep going on knowing I'll never be able to play it the way I hear it in my head...

Truth be told, I also have trouble holding the violin properly, though there's no pain or significant discomfort, I still feel it could be more comfortable... I dont know whether to change shoulder rests or chin rests, or how to adjust these things... and it' s expensive to buy all these things only to find out that maybe my adult body can't adapt to the violin the way a child does... It's a fact that children are much more flexible than adults, and as such , when taught properly, their bodies adapt naturally to the awkwardness of the instrument ...

it's all very frustrating! Considering that I can play the guitar at a slightly above decent level and that if there's anything I can't do on the guitar, I know that I can do it with about 6 months worth of practice.... That's not the case on the violin....

here's me playing guitar, I have a little bit of dexterity on the left hand, but none of that translates to the violin!

February 23, 2010 at 07:21 AM ·

john, thanks for your input... guitar  definitely has its initial challenges... but it doesn't take too long to get past those challenges... for anyone who just wants to strum the guitar and learn some very baisc picking techniques... within two-three years, you can already have an adequate sound...

I've now been playing the violin for 2 yrs, and i'm still trying to figure out how to hold the violin properly! My sound is merely OK, and i still can't even play twinkle twinkle little star expressively.... I can play all the notes in tune though....

Ingrid: thanks for your inputs, the thumb definitely needs to be relaxed... everything needs to be relaxed ... but it just isn't happening, relaxing my thumb completely prevents me from even playing the second note!!

the whole issue of relaxation is really tricky too.... sincei  play guitar professionally and have invested countless hours into the instrument and have taught well over a hundred students by now... I know exactly how it works... I don't , it might be different on the violin... but in order to master a technique on the guitar, there needs to be ying-yang approach... where you alternate between practicing slow and as relaxed as possible; and pushing moderately hard to break the barrier... but of course never pushing too hard to the point of injury... i usually tell the student that he/she has to be the best judge of how much is too hard...

as a teacher, i know exactly how a student feels... things that pros take for granted are extremely difficult for beginners...

well nothing to do but to keep trying!!

February 25, 2010 at 07:29 AM ·

no more replies argh!! i guess I am the only who cannot do this...

well little update, i'm very slowly starting to be able to do it, it's still a struggle, but when i originally started this thread , it was IMPOSSIBLE for me... there might be hope yet... or maybe not haha

February 25, 2010 at 06:13 PM ·

@ Dennis C- What you just said is what I thought when I began doing Schradiek exercises.  But I just kept with them and what I thought once impossible I can now do rather well!

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